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A Voice from Fly-Over Country
May 4, 2013

The Biggest Lie in American History?
by Robert L. Hale
fitzgerald griffin foundation

MINOT, NORTH DAKOTA — "If you look at my track record over the last two years, I cut spending by over a trillion dollars in 2011." — President Barack Obama, December 25, 2012 — "Meet the Press".

Is this bold and unequivocal assertion a misstatement, a parsing of words, political rhetoric, word play, a joke or a calculated lie? By any measure it certainly is not true.

Calling someone a liar, let alone the President of the United States, is a serious charge. The question is whether under any accounting theory could what Obama claimed be true?    

… a very famous German propagandist said, "If you tell a big enough lie, often enough, people will eventually believe it."

Let's take a look at the numbers. The White House Office of Management and Budget provided this information:

- 2010: Total Federal spending was $3,456,213,000,000; of which $1,293,489,000,000 was borrowed.
- 2011: Total Federal spending was $3,603,213,000,000; of which $1,299,595,000,000 was borrowed.

In 2010 and 2011 overall Federal spending, including borrowed money increased. There was no cut in spending in 2011. In neither year was there an adopted federal budget. Thus, there is no baseline to measure if cuts, whether proposed or otherwise, occurred.

The assertion by the President that he cut spending by over a trillion dollars in 2011 has no basis in fiscal, budgetary, accounting or mathematical fact. This seems to leave us with only one rational common sense conclusion — Obama's assertion is a lie.

How do we measure lies? In terms of budgetary matters claiming to have cut federal spending, "over a trillion dollars in 2011" is certainly the largest fiscal untruth ever uttered by a U.S. President.

But does lying to the American people about spending matters, matter? If polls are accurate the vast majority of Americans don't believe what their leaders tell them in any event. So does it make any difference when our President lies to us? A more important question is does the liar believe what he says, or believe those listening believe what he says?

If the President believes he actually cut spending in 2011 by "over a trillion dollars" then we need to be concerned about his mental health. If he realizes he is lying but believes those listening to him believe him, we need to be concerned about the state of American education. In either case, every American regardless of political persuasion or ideology, should be concerned.

In the 1930's a very famous German propagandist said, "If you tell a big enough lie, often enough, people will eventually believe it." Without question this is a big lie — by fiscal measures it is the biggest lie ever told by an American President. Is this President testing the propagandist's belief? Is this just a onetime slip of the tongue, one unintentional or tongue in cheek quip?

Is it possible the President's claim that he cut spending was a test to find out if anyone was listening? Was he checking to see if the media, political opponents, his own advisors, or anyone would challenge him? A week after the claim no one, it seems, has challenged his statement.    

During the Bush years we saw the growth of internal surveillance, federal spending, and an explosion of debt. The Obama years have seen the continuation of all the bad things done during the Bush years but on a much larger scale.

The American public shouldn't be surprised if the lies continue, get bigger, become bolder, and morph into the inability to tell reality from fiction or even having anyone try to sort out the two.

During the Bush years we saw the growth of internal surveillance, federal spending, and an explosion of debt. The Obama years have seen the continuation of all the bad things done during the Bush years but on a much larger scale.

We've seen the federal government grow, surveillance expand, internal police forces assembled, the courts approval of every expansion of government power, government refusing to enforce our laws, direct government assault on religious freedom, an explosion of new laws, increased taxes, continued high unemployment, almost half our population became dependent on government subsidies, talk about confiscation of all firearms and the list goes on.

None of this would have been possible fifty years ago, but not for the obvious reason. The changes in the world around us have not brought this about. Those we've elected to lead our country have brought it about. We no longer hold our leaders to being truthful or even care when they lie to us.

Obama's claim that he cut a trillion dollars in 2011 was the biggest lie in American history. The question is why are we willing to accept it and what does that mean for the future of America?

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A Voice from Fly-Over Country is copyright © 2013 by Robert L. Hale and the Fitzgerald Griffin Foundation. All rights reserved.

Robert L. Hale received his J.D. in law from Gonzaga University Law School in Spokane, Washington. He is founder and director of a non-profit public interest law firm. For more than three decades he has been involved in drafting proposed laws and counseling elected officials in ways to remove burdensome and unnecessary rules and regulations.

See a complete biographical sketch.

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